Forum: Singapore is just not ready for PMDs

Two e-scooter riders waiting on the pedestrian crossing at Boon Lay.
Two e-scooter riders waiting on the pedestrian crossing at Boon Lay.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

The recent death of an elderly woman caused by a personal mobility device (PMD) user has elicited an official response.

While this is encouraging, waiting to see if such errant PMD riders will mend their ways is an optimistic, if somewhat unrealistic, position.

Human behaviour does not change overnight.

So, while we wait to see if errant PMD users will shape up, vulnerable pedestrians are at risk - an unacceptable trade-off in the interest of active mobility.

Schemes to license and regulate PMD usage have been mooted, as have ways to identify reckless PMD riders. The former, however, does not dictate the manner in which one chooses to ride - that is still dependent upon individual users.

And the latter offers cold comfort to pedestrians who have been hurt and their families - it may not be possible to even identify the perpetrator.

It would be more prudent to remove the circumstances for such potential mishaps at the outset.

Yes, arguments in support of the PMD have been offered - it is nascent technology, it could point the way to a car-lite society, it allows for active mobility and is a source of income. They are all good points. But none is good enough to trump the safety of pedestrians. The bottom line is: Singapore is not ready for PMDs.

Before Singapore boasted the world-beating F1 Night Race, Formula 1 cars did not speed around the island willy-nilly.

The route was carefully researched, planned and executed. Could the same not be done for PMDs? The logic is clear.

Firearms are prohibited in Singapore for obvious reasons. The Misuse of Drugs Act is wielded like a sledgehammer to rid society of the ill effects of addiction. Chewing gum is banned because of damage to public property and amenities.

Perhaps, until there is proper pedestrian-friendly infrastructure in place, PMDs should be banned.

This is something worth chewing on, since lives depend on it.

Remesh Panicker

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore is just not ready for PMDs'. Print Edition | Subscribe